Words and pictures from the author of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Running with the Big Dogs
At the book fair last Saturday, I was delighted to find myself on a panel with three writers whose work I deeply admire:
Pam Duncan is the author of Moon Women, Plant Life, and The Big Beautiful, beautifully and sensitively realized stories of women. Fred Chappell is a former NC Poet Laureate, recipient of many prestigious awards including the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, and the author of numerous novels and collections of poetry. And there was Ron Rash, poet and novelist, whose Serena I've already said a lot about here and his The World Made Straighthere.
The panel was moderated by Newt Smith, professor of English at Western Carolina and the topic was the sense of place in our work -- we all write about the western North Carolina mountains.
I admit to a feeling of being the odd man out, the thorn amidst the roses. These writers are all natives with family ties to the area stretching back for generations -- me, I'm the transplant. And they're all "literary writers" whereas I'm a writer of genre fiction -- just a "paperback writer."
Now, neither the moderator nor any of the panel members made me feel anything less than a colleague and an equal. But I know that the perception exists that genre fiction is somehow lesser than literary fiction -- indeed, that's one reason I chose to write mysteries -- it seemed less daunting.
Genre fiction (and that would include, mystery, romance, science fiction, horror, fantasy, romance, western and all their sub-categories) briefly, is written and read mainly for entertainment. Literary fiction, on the other hand, has loftier goals -- education and inspiration.
Genre fiction is plot driven -- and the plot can tend to the predictable -- whereas literary fiction is character driven. And, in general, the writing is of a higher standard -- more "literary," in fact.
I loved being on a panel with these folks --and I really didn't feel a need to apologize for what I write. In the end, we're all story tellers, all telling our stories the best we can.
Here's an excellent article on genre fiction vs. literary fiction
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I'm the author of The Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries from Bantam Dell. The series includes SIGNS IN THE BLOOD (LA MONTAGNE DES SECRETS in France), ART'S BLOOD, (LE SECRET DES APPALACHES in France,) OLD WOUNDS,IN A DARK SEASON (Anthony Nominee, Best PBO), and UNDER THE SKIN. There's also THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS (a spinoff/standalone)chronicling the unexpected life story of Miss Birdie, one of Elizabeth's neighbors.
I came to this weird business late (my first novel was published in 2005) and am still trying to figure it out.
As my novels are set in a place much like my real life home, I thought I'd use this blog to share pictures of our farm and county. I've been blogging for over five years now, on an almost daily basis, and the topics have ranged from writing, chickens, food, books, quilts, flora and fauna of all sorts, to the occasional tiny rant. There's no plan, but there are lots of pictures.
There's more information about me and my books on my web site: http://vickilanemysteries.com/